Monday, March 2, 2009

American Avocets

Click on photos for greater detail
My resident bird expert (also known as Dave) and I were on vacation in Northern California last week, and each saw quite a few "life birds" -- birds neither of us had seen or identified in the past. The American avocet was one such for me, and immediately became a favorite. What a lovely shorebird it is: long-legged, strikingly marked in black and white, and when in breeding plumage as the bird shown above is, bearing a lovely terracotta blush to its head, neck, and breast. Its long bill curves charmingly upward. Dave has seen avocets before, but in Minnesota they can only be seen in the extreme western counties in summer. They breed from the western Great Plains down to New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, as well as along the coast of California and in a few other spots.

We saw the lone bird above at the Berkeley marina in the San Francisco Bay Area; later, as we traveled as far north as Eureka, we saw many, many more. Below is a scene from a shell-studded sandbar at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, just north of Eureka. American avocets -- some transitioning to that beautiful breeding plumage and most others still in their more subdued nonbreeding plumage -- mix with a few marbled godwits (what a wonderful name), a plumper-bodied shorebird with speckled, cinnamon-colored plumage. More about them, and some of the other discoveries of our trip, to come.


Gardeness said...

Just stopping by to say thanks for the visit. It sounds like you know your birds, too! I'm completely lost in that area, but trying to learn. Oh, and how awesome that you got to guest blog for Eat Local.

Mary S. said...

Cool bird shots! Sounds like you had a good trip. Welcome back.